Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Crimea’s Looted Heritage

Thursday, April 24, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA—The Art Newspaper reports that Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, has brought the crisis of illegal excavations of Greek, Scythian, and Sarmatian archaeological sites in Crimea to the attention of the Russian parliament. “Crimea and Ukraine have long been on Interpol lists next to Iraq and Iran due to the pillage of treasures on their territories,” he has written. Looting, known as “black archaeology,” and smuggling artifacts to the West are big business, fueled by the economic chaos in the region after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Archaeologist Valentina Mordvintseva of the Institute of Archaeology of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences says that the situation has improved since then, but “as long as the public does not value cultural heritage, this problem won’t be eradicated….As for the changes that might come from Crimea [joining] Russia, it’s hard to say. Problems aren’t always solved by legislation.”